This really wasn't unexpected if you're a general observer of things. MLB was sort of a canary in the coal mine a few month ago and people snickered/chastised when a few teams experienced outbreaks. But, to my knowledge, everybody survived and the World Series went to six and saw a legendary franchise win its first title since 1988 (shoutout Kirk Gibson for giving me a real-and-true "where were you?" sports moment*). While we're here, baseball is still boring as fuck and nerd stat'd to death and the commish is a bananahead.
Then the NFL started up its crowdless season. Normally packed stadiums would not be peppered liberally with blacked-out meatheads wearing the tattered jersey of a journeyman cornerback yelling "Cunt!" at a 12-year-old girl who made the mistake of wearing the jersey of the opposing QB to a game he was playing in. Soon enough, those venues would be infiltrated by the virus, causing delays and some logistical headaches. But, as far as I know, everyone made it through okay. The league that somehow marches on despite itself had yet another banner year, some thrilling playoff games, and a dream Super Bowl match-up.
A few months later, hockey's winter cousin fired up its season. It wasn't long before the NBA had COVID issues as well. Still, the wildly-talented league that worships the three-pointer like some alien deity instead of playing some goddamn defense marches on to its usual high ratings and ridiculously good highlights. And I don't think (though I'm not positive) anybody has even been declared out for the season from it and the league certainly doesn't appear to be closing up shop until its crowns somebody's ass.
So when the NHL got its inevitable issues and positive tests, I don't see why anybody was surprised. If it happened in baseball, then football, then basketball, why wouldn't it happen in hockey? To be clear, I'm not blaming players here (that lies elsewhere). In our our own lives, many of us have either become exposed or were exposed to somebody was exposed through no fault of our own. The same goes for pro athletes. They're just regular people with different jobs and do the same shit as the rest of us. Some folks caught it despite their best efforts. And others caught it with lesser efforts. But I don't know of any NHL players/workers who even had overnight hospital stays due to the virus (there may have been but I'm unaware). I don't expect the season to be torpedoed by it.
The NHL was wholly prepared for this I would think. They'll just insert games in here-and-there, wherever they can squeeze them in. If they can't squeeze all of the PPD games in before the end of the season, the NHL can extend the season and make adjustments to any ripple effects like it's been doing for nearly a year now. It'll really shorten the season of the Cup winner but adding another week or so is certainly a manageable alternative to not playing games.
Like the genius in the cut-off hoodie says, "it is what it is". If you're a player, all you can do is wait it out then get ready for an even more jam-packed schedule. If you're a fan, well, you can still tune in every night and watch some fantastic hockey with the talent level of the league at on all-time high. There will be either 1 game on or 79 games on. And they'll all start at the same time. Just keep Connor McDavid in a bubble please.
*Congrats to that sauce-crossin' sniper Alexander Ovechkin. The best goal scorer of the 21st Century just passed Mike Gartner on the all-time goals list and now has the legendary Phil Esposito in his sights while chasing Wayne Gretzky's record of 894. Ovie has averaged 49 goals per season over the last three seasons and he's 35-years-old. I wouldn't bet against it.
*Here's a great read on our boy Yands. Yes, there's a paywall. Spend the $3/month, ya cheap prick. Or even do the free sample thing.
*---I was solo, sitting on the leather couch in the downstairs TV room (aka The Porn Palace) at my aunt's split-level on Blueberry Hill in Woburn. It was a Saturday night a couple of hours after I locked up Movies and More/Ticketmaster (manager while in high school with access to endless adult VHS titles and front row seats, not a big deal). When Gibson slowly walked to plate, I sat up in my seat a little. The Dodgers were "trying to catch lightning right now" as Vin Scully famously says. In a legendary two-out at-bat that goes to a full-count and lasts six minutes long, the injured and aging slugger takes the then-best closer in MLB history deep into the L.A. night. I was no longer sitting because it was one of the times that sports made you literally jump up in amazement. It may have only been Game 1, but the Oakland A's were dead that night. Then so was my pecker once Gibson rounded the bases and I threw on "Cheerleader Nurses" for the 627th time.